This year marked the first year that former fifteen-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena has wrestled fewer than 50 matches. Of course, he did miss the first quarter of this year due to injury, but most of the time he’s missed has been due to non-WWE related projects, like hosting Saturday Night Live.
While Cena has spent the better part of 2016 doing stuff that’s not related to WWE, his outside commitments are scheduled to end — at least temporarily — very soon, and he’ll be back on television at the beginning of 2017. He’ll actually be making his official return to the ring at a WWE live event on December 26, but that event won’t be televised.
So, the main question is, who will John Cena target upon his WWE return? There’s talk on an Undertaker feud, and there’s also a chance that he feuds with Dean Ambrose. But, according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the former fifteen-time champ will resume his heated rivalry with current WWE World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles upon his return.
— WWE (@WWE) December 13, 2016
While speaking on the Live Audio Wrestling Podcast about what could be next for Dean Ambrose, James Ellsworth, AJ Styles, and John Cena, Meltzer said that there could be a short television program between Ellsworth and Ambrose, and that AJ will be Cena’s opponent upon his return.
“Where AJ goes… I mean, the Ellsworth thing isn’t gonna be a house show program, and AJ is gonna be waiting for Cena when he gets back, which is right after Christmas. So, it looks like [Cena vs. Styles] is where we’re going.”
John Cena and AJ Styles had a long and memorable program over the summer, which ended with Styles pinning Cena at SummerSlam in what was their blow off match. Of course, Cena did return several weeks later, and he went after AJ again, but it didn’t end up being a one on one feud, as Dean Ambrose was put into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship mix.
WWE is looking to have John Cena tie Ric Flair’s record for most world title wins in company history, and Cena is one title win away from doing so. It’s been an ongoing storyline ever since he lost the world title to Brock Lesnar back at SummerSlam in 2014, and most are expecting Cena’s two-year chase to come to an end at WrestleMania 33.
— TFM (@totalfratmove) December 12, 2016
As of right now, Cena is one of the top three favorites to win the 2017 Royal Rumble match, along with Chris Jericho and Finn Balor. Of course, Balor is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury that he suffered back in August, and while there’s a chance that he could show up at the Rumble, he’s not expected to. So, that leaves Jericho and Cena as the top two favorites to win the annual 30-man match.
It’s unclear if Cena will immediately be reinserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture, because — according to Forbes— The Phenomenal One will defend his title against The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. Of course, the Forbes report hasn’t yet been confirmed, so, WWE could go with Cena vs. Styles at the Alamodome.
As of this writing, WWE doesn’t have John Cena listed for any upcoming SmackDown shows. In fact, the only thing he’s being advertised for is the December 26 house show in New York, at Madison Square Garden.
We do know that John Cena will be a part of the 2017 Royal Rumble, so you should expect to see him back at some point next month. Who knows? Maybe he’ll show up at the first SmackDown of the new year, and challenge AJ Styles to a match at the Royal Rumble.
[Featured Image by WWE]